Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Heil Valley Ranch

I took a mountain bike trip up Heil Valley over a year ago. It's a decent ride. Never very steep or rocky it climbs through the woods from Lefthand Canyon to provide some great, if infrequent views west to St. Vrain Canyon and north to Lyons. I've rarely visited the place since because they don't allow dogs and when I run on my own I prefer the high mountains. But with weather putting that out of reach it made a logical choice for another early morning run when I had only a little time available and no dog with me.

The trailhead is just 2 miles from my home, so the convenience alone made it a great choice - leaving home to setting out on the trail took only 15 minutes. And it was completely deserted. With the ranch lying north to south between high ridges, this meant that much early running was in shadow...and it was cool. Seeing the sun touching the treetops didn't help and it an hour before the warmth of the morning arrived.

I have met a lot of very well-educated people who should know better, yet it is remarkable some of the nonsense they believe. I know health is a very personal thing, but it is surprising to me why so many people who, while normally rational on most things, engage in pure pseudoscience and quackery when it comes to health. I suspect that part of the "reason" (if there is one) is due to the bad press of "big pharma" and the fact that companies who should act with supreme integrity often fall short, but the behavior of people with respect to their own health is often diametrically opposed to the very best evidence.
Trail junction - Picture Rock goes right to Lyons, the Wild Turkey trail goes left

I was particularly struck by a comment made by a family psychologist I met some time ago who commented exasperatingly "Oh no, not evidence based medicine again", as though this was somehow the cause of a major problem. It seems that, as Michael Shermer put it, people believe some weird things. The most popular pseudoscientific nonsense among the chattering classes seem to be acupuncture, homeopathy, reiki and vaccine denialism. Scientifically speaking, these are all on a par with faith healing - they just don't work.
Distant view of Long's Peak

It's difficult to keep pace with the proliferation of nonsense that spews forth from the advocates of CAM, or its updated title Integrative Medicine. The fact that these "alternative" treatments are called "alternative", is that if they were effective we would simply call them "medicine". "Alternative" is the term used to describe medical treatments for which no evidence exists regarding their efficacy. And the problem with zero evidence is that it means ineffective. They plain don't work. Two of my favorite websites track this kind of nonsense and debunk it daily...sometimes hilariously, sometimes savagely. I suggest you check them out.
View west across St. Vrain Canyon from the Ponderosa Trail

After a 2.6 mile approach on the Wapiti Trail I decided to run a counter clockwise loop combining the Wild Turkey Trail and the Ponderosa Trail. It was steady running the whole way. However, I do find running mountain biking trails to be a little tedious - the routing is nearly always circuitous and the heavily rutted ground makes for awkward foot placements. Although the views aren't great on this trail - there are just too many trees - the places where open country breaks out are all the more special.

It is that time of year when animals are on the move and, just like yesterday at Dowdy Draw, I encountered a herd of deer moving through the forest close to the trail summit. After a rapid, sweeping descent of the Ponderosa trail I reached its junction with the Wapiti Trail and a quick return to the car.

View from the Lichen Trail
On the way back I decided to detour via the short Lichen Trail.This is really just a short walking loop for those unable to complete the full circuit and it a very pleasant diversion. Just over 10 miles and a great start to another stunning Colorado day.

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